Review | Rent: makes the Orpheum rock

Hennepin Center For The Arts

RENT Ensemble. Photo byCarol Rosegg

Is this a Tony Award-winning musical or a rock concert? For those lucky enough to catch Rent playing at the Orpheum through August 18th, get ready to cheer, clap, hoot and even moo right along with the show-stopping musical numbers.

Rent, celebrating its 20th-anniversary tour, kicked off the 2019-2020 Bank of America Broadway on Hennepin season at the Orpheum on Wednesday, August 14th. This is not a show to miss, every moment pumps with adrenaline and feeling from the upbeat anthems to the heartbreaking soliloquies as the characters of Rent navigate life, love, and loss during the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City.

Written by Jonathan Larson, Rent made Broadway history in 1994 winning both the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prose for Drama. The story revolves around Mark, played by Cody Jenkins, and Roger, played by Coleman Cummings, both artists living, rent-free, in a building owned by their friend Benny, played by Juan Luis Espinal. On Christmas Eve, Benny announces he will evict the tenants of the building as well as clear away a group of homeless people who live in an abandoned lot next to the building. Mark and Roger, as well as the other tenants, refuse to pay and protest the eviction.

Mark is a wannabe director, rarely seen without a camera in hand, documenting life around him and serving as a silent witness. Roger, is a wannabe rock star, a songwriter looking for one great song. Roger has AIDS and has shut himself in the apartment he shares with Mark. Along with Mark and Roger, we meet Collins, played by Shafiq Hicks, a professor and ex-roommate of Mark and Roger. When Collins is mugged on Christmas, he is rescued by Angel, played by Joshua Taveres, and the two quickly fall in love. Roger’s hermitage is interrupted by Mimi, played by Aiyana Smash, a dancer full of fire and spunk who also has AIDS.

There is no weak member of the cast and no dull moment of the show. Everyone from the Greek chorus, a rag-tag homeless band, to the supporting players, to the lead actors make this production extraordinary.

Rent will grab hold of you and leave you with high spirits. Although the set is sparse, meant to feel like a cold and desolate part of town, the way the cast take advantage of simple props and set pieces, you never lose the action from scene to scene. You might be on a street corner one minute, or a bustling café the next.

What more can be said about Rent that hasn’t been said before? Even if you’ve heard it all before and know every song by heart, this production makes everything old feel new again.


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